Interview Basics: How to Dress for an Interview|
The way one should dress for an interview is definitely a widely discussed topic and there is a lot of competing information out there. I’m not at all surprised that this is the case. Having spent the past five years of my career interviewing candidates for two very different industries- investment banking and fashion- I know that interview attire is not “one size fits all.”
Instead of opting for the “black suit approach” (assuming it’s better to be safe than sorry), tailor your outfit to the company and industry you are interviewing in. Here’s are a few tips for picking the perfect outfit:
1. Do your detective work – Have friends who work at the company you are interviewing at? Ask them what they wear to work every day and what the general culture of the office is. Is it a super professional atmosphere or more laid back? Do people dress more uniformly or more creatively? Getting this information first hand is ideal, but not always possible. Second best to chatting with someone who works at that company specifically, is chatting with someone who works at a similar company in the same industry.
2. When it doubt, ask! – You’ve likely been corresponding with someone at the company to nail down interview logistics. Instead of sending a separate email, include the question along with confirming the date, time and location. There is nothing wrong with asking what the dress code is in the office!
3. Understand the different types of dress codes – The main types of dress codes are business formal, business casual, and casual. There are lots of resources out there to define those. While there may be a wide range of different things that may be acceptable within each dress code, always err on the more formal side of whatever dress code bucket the company falls into. In terms of a casual dress code, I’d suggest bordering business casual. If interviewing at a fashion related company, consider wearing their brand or mirroring the style of their brand.
4. When you have incomplete information, play it safe – If you are unable to gather any type of information prior to the interview, play it safe by wearing a flexible outfit. A great formula for a flexible outfit is slacks or a skirt paired with a blouse. This gives you the option to bring a blazer along with you and gauge the environment when you arrive in the reception area. If no one else is in a full suit, toss it in your tote. Otherwise, throw it on!
5. Steer clear of a few don’ts – Regardless of the stated dress code, there are a few things to stay away from no matter what. Use your best judgement and avoid anything short, revealing, ripped, see-through, or overly loud/trendy. Not only is this unprofessional but it will distract the interviewer. Simply throwing a blazer on over a dress doesn’t make it appropriate for business wear!
When it comes to dressing for an interview, don’t go straight to that black suit. Present yourself in a way that is professional, reflects who you are, and also mirrors the office environment of the company. We’ve all seen Mark Zuckerberg in his trademark hoodie. Different industries, different rules!
Photo courtesy of Inslee